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What Were They Thinking?
By MICHAEL A. WILSON, MOP Squad Sports Assistant Editor-in-Chief
Mar 13, 2006 - 11:16:00 PM

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On Sunday, I was hosting a family function at my place and I didnít see any of the conference finals that took place.  Apparently, they were pretty good.  In fact, the only television I saw while I had company, was the tail end of the Honda Classic.  Fellow Northwestern alum, Luke Donald, was in the process of winning the tournament.

Shortly thereafter, my company left and I was able to watch the selection show on CBS.  And what I saw stunned me.

The brackets made no sense.  Well, only a little, anyway.  Tennessee a number two seed?  After losing four of their last six games?  George Washington, the team with the best record in the tournament at 26-2, is an eight seed? 

Duke, of course, gets itís customary trip through home territory.  Villanova gets similar treatment but only through the first two rounds.  If they make it out, itís on to Minneapolis for their regional.  Duke has to travel far and wideÖto Atlanta. 

Here are some of the other observations I have with this yearís tournament:

  • Not only does George Washington get stuck as an eight, itís ninth seeded opponent, UNC-Wilmington is practically in their own backyard.  Since when does a nine seed get preferential treatment over an eight?
  • How does North Carolina get a three seed and Illinois does not?  Or donít the early games matter?
  • Michigan St. should be a five seed while Syracuse should be, at best, a six.  I canít help seeing that drubbing DePaul inflicted on the Orange not so long ago.  Michigan St. is the strongest six seed in recent years and could easily go to the Sweet 16.  North Carolina will be tough but they are beatable and Tennessee is simply misplaced as a two.  Syracuse might be a good upset bet.
  • The top seed in Salt Lake City is Gonzaga at three.  Okay, Iíll buy that.  But next comes Boston College at four.  BC makes a good four seed as far as Iím concerned but, Salt Lake City? 

The problem, it seems to me, is the pod system.  While it was designed with good intentions, I wonder if it's just too difficult to try to fit everyone in where the selection committee thinks teams should go.  There will always be unhappy teams, granted, but, with a little bit more flexibility, things might go much smoother.

The team of Billy Packer and Jim Nantz got a little vicious with Craig Littlepage, the chair of the selection committee.  I donít really have a problem with that as there was plenty of stuff to fling at Mr. Littlepage.  But the sharpest barbs from Packer-Nantz were about things that are really non-issues.  The idea that, by giving the Missouri Valley Conference the same number of tournament teams as the Atlantic Coast Conference does not mean that the committee equates the two conferences.  All one has to do is to look at the seedings.  The ACC got all seeds at four and above while the MVC teams were all seeded six or lower.  Whereís the MVCís number one seed?  No, the committee isnít equating the two conferences.  But hereís shocker, itís entirely feasible that the committee could have chosen a fifth team from the MVC (Missouri St.) and probably should have.  I assume Packer-Nantz would see that as the committee elevating the MVC above the ACC?  Come on.  Is it, perhaps, that CBS is worried about lost ratings/revenue?  Donít they realize that having these kinds of games is precisely what makes the tournament so exciting?

Another part of that excitement is all the caterwauling over the selection system.  I feel sorry for teams like Missouri St., Hofstra and Cincinnati.  And Iím always amazed when teams like Utah St. and Air Force make it.  But, these things happen and Iím sure next year will be no different.

Now, let's get those brackets filled and start the fesitivities.  Tuesday night, it's Hampton versus Monmouth in the play-in game.  Let the excitement begin!

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